When it comes to improving your flexibility, most people think about static stretching as the go-to solution. Static stretching involves holding a single stretch for an extended duration without moving. On the other hand, passive stretching occurs when an external force applies a lengthening force to a muscle group to increase its length while keeping the target muscle group at rest. Passive means you don’t have to contract your muscles to lengthen them. This article will explain passive stretching, why it’s useful and how you can incorporate it into your fitness routine.
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What is Passive Stretching?
When you stretch your muscles, you aim to increase their flexibility by slowly increasing their length. Stretching by yourself can be tricky, though. You need to be careful not to overstretch your muscles or risk injury. If you don’t have someone to help you stretch, you can’t be as consistent about doing it. That’s where passive stretching comes in. Passive stretching is a technique that allows you to hold a stretch for a longer duration than you could do on your own. It also allows you to be consistent about stretching daily. People often use a partner to apply a gentle force to their muscles to help them stretch. The partner is applying a passive stretch.
Why Is Passive Stretching Useful?
Passive stretching is a good way to warm up your muscles before a workout. A warm-up increases blood flow to your muscles, helping them operate at peak performance. In addition to increasing blood flow, a warm-up also increases your mobility. That can be helpful if you’re trying to get into a new exercise routine. When performed properly, passive stretching increases your joint range of motion, which is what we’re after when we stretch. However, it’s important to note that passive stretching doesn’t increase strength.
How to Perform a Passive Stretch
In order to perform a passive stretch, you need a partner or something to help you apply the stretching force. You should never stretch by yourself with a passive stretch. Having a partner helps ensure you don’t push too hard and risk injury. It also ensures that you’re holding the stretch for the proper amount of time. Here are a few passive stretches you can try with and without a partner:
Passive Stretches with a Partner
- Quadriceps Stretch: Start in a standing position. Have your partner grab your right ankle and pull it back until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
- Hamstring Stretch: Start by lying on your back with both legs extended. Have your partner grab your right ankle and pull it upward until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
- Hip Flexor Stretch: Start in a lunge position with your right leg forward and your left leg back. Have your partner grab your right knee and pull it upward until you feel a stretch in the front of your right hip. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
Passive Stretches without a Partner
- Pec Stretch: Start by placing your right arm behind your back and grabbing your right wrist with your left hand. Gently pull your right arm across your body until you feel a stretch in the front of your chest. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
- Triceps Stretch: Start by raising your right arm overhead and grabbing your right elbow with your left hand. Gently pull your right elbow down until you feel a stretch in the back of your upper arm. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
- Shoulder Stretch: Start by interlacing your fingers and placing your palms against each other in front of your chest. Gently push your palms away until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
- Upper Back Stretch: Start by clasping your hands together behind your back. Gently pull your hands down and away from each other until you feel a stretch in your upper back. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
When Should You Do Passive Stretching?
Like any exercise, you should perform passive stretching at the right time. Ideally, you should do it after your workout when your muscles are warm. This timing has the added benefit of allowing you to stretch both muscle groups and joints. If you do passive stretching before your workout, you’re more likely to overstretch and risk injury. That’s because your muscles are cold and contracted when you first start exercising. If you’re stretching to help improve joint mobility, you can also do it at other times of the day. Active people sometimes do passive stretches to help maintain their mobility. Doing them daily can help prevent injury.
Passive Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching
Now that you know what passive stretching is, it’s important to understand the difference between passive and dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is a form of active stretching that uses momentum to increase your range of motion. It’s often used as part of a warm-up because it helps prepare your muscles for exercise. Passive stretching, on the other hand, is a form of static stretching. It’s performed without movement and involves holding a position for an extended period.
The key difference between these two types of stretching is that dynamic stretching uses movement while passive stretching does not. Dynamic stretches are often considered safer because they don’t stress your muscles and joints. That’s why they’re often used as part of a warm-up routine. Passive stretching, on the other hand, can be more stressful for your body. That’s why it’s important to do it after your workout when your muscles are warm.
Passive Stretching vs. Static Stretching
While passive and static stretching is similar, there is a key difference between them. Static stretching is a form of passive stretching that involves holding a position for an extended period. The key difference is that static stretches can be performed with or without movement. Passive stretches, on the other hand, are always performed without movement.
The bottom line is that passive stretching is a form of static stretching that doesn’t involve movement. It’s often used as part of a cool-down routine because it helps improve joint range of motion. Likewise, static stretching can be used as part of a warm-up or cool-down routine. However, it’s important to understand the difference between these two types of stretching before you start using them.
4 Tips for Effective Passive Stretching
Now that you know what passive stretching is, here are some tips for doing it effectively.
- Know Your Limits: Since you don’t contract your muscles while doing a passive stretch, you risk overstretching them. You don’t want to push too hard and risk injury. That’s why it’s important to know your limits.
- Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds: The amount of time you hold the stretch makes a big difference.
- Stretch After Your Workout: You’ll most likely benefit from stretching after your workout.
- Stretch Daily: There’s no magic number for how many times you should stretch each week. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.
Passive stretching is a great way to warm up your muscles before a workout and improve joint mobility. When performed properly, it also increases your range of motion. However, it’s important to note that passive stretching doesn’t increase strength like its more aggressive counterpart, active stretching. That’s why knowing your limits is important and not overstretching. If you want to improve your flexibility, it’s important to incorporate passive stretching into your fitness routine.